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URBANA — The pandemic hasn’t been kind to performing artists, but never underestimate the creativity of determined musicians.

For the first time in more than a year, University of Illinois concert bands will offer live music Friday — outdoors and for free — to an audience that will include anybody strolling by. UI Director of Bands Steve Peterson said there will be pretty much nonstop music from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., all performed on the west steps of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., U.

“The idea is for people to just walk by,” he said.

Those who want to pause and listen for a time can spread out on the sidewalks and grab lunch from a food truck that will be parked nearby, he said.

With the need for social distancing still in effect, any venue with seating was off the table, Peterson said. And for safety’s sake, the bands have been divided into about 20 smaller ensembles, with members wearing specially designed face masks with openings for instrument mouthpieces, he said.

The concert will feature about 150 members of the Illinois Wind Symphony, Wind Orchestra, Hindsley Symphonic Band and Campus Band.

It’s been a challenging year for UI musicians, who for safety’s sake have had to rehearse 6 feet apart from each other in small groups and vacate rehearsal rooms every 30 minutes to allow time for the air to clear, Peterson said.

“These poor kids have been scooting between rooms,” he said.

In addition to special face masks for the musicians, woodwind and brass instrument bells have had to be covered, which muffles the sound a bit, he said.

It’s all been a lot of work, but for band members largely attending online classes, rehearsals have often been the only place they’ve been able to see their fellow students, Peterson said.

Plus, “they’re musicians,” he said. “They’re just dying to make music. They’d do anything to do it.”

The program for Friday’s “Music on the Steps” concert can be found at bands.illinois.edu.

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